Move towards room temperature superconductivity

The layers of molybdenum carbide and molybdenum sulfide allow superconductivity at temperatures up to 50 percent higher. Credit: Elizabeth Floers-Gomez Murray / Penn State

With the recent discovery by a team of Penn State physicists and materials scientists the possibility of achieving room temperature superconductivity took a small step forward.

The surprising finding included a two-dimensional material called molybdenum sulfide with another material called molybdenum carbide. Molybdenum carbide is a known superconductor – electrons can flow through the material without any resistance. Even the best metals, such as silver or copper, lose energy through heat. This disadvantage makes long distance transmission of electricity more expensive.

“Superconductivity occurs at very low temperatures, close to absolute zero or 0 Kelvin,” said Mauricio Terrones, author of a paper on Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Published this week. “Moly carbide’s alpha phase is superconducting at 4 Kelvin.”

When laying metastable phases of molybdenum carbide with molybdenum sulfide, superconductivity occurs at 6 kelvins, an increase of 50%. While this is not remarkable in itself — other materials have been shown to be superconducting at temperatures of 150 kelvin — it was still an unexpected phenomenon that describes a new method to increase superconductivity at high temperatures in other superconducting materials Does.

The team used modeling techniques to understand how the effect occurred experimentally.

“Experimental measurements to determine the structure of buried molybdenum carbide / molybdenum sulfide interfaces are calculated using quantum mechanics as an aid in the interpretation,” said Susan Sinot, head of materials science and engineering and department. “This work is a good example of the way in which materials synthesis, characterization, and modeling can come together to advance the discovery of new material systems with unique properties.”

According to Teronas, “This is a fundamental discovery, but no one believed it would work. We are observing an event that to the best of our knowledge has never been seen before.”

The team will continue to experiment with superconductive materials someday, combining any material combination that can carry energy through the grid with zero resistance.

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more information:
Fu Zhang et al., “Superconductivity in phase-engineered molybdenum carbide decaying vertical vertical heterostructures,” PNAS (2020).

Provided by Pennsylvania State University

Quotes: Steps towards room temperature superconductivity (2020, July 29) Retrieved July 29, 2010, from

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